Goal for global bioproduct markets to refine biomass
It has been announced that Fortum is launching a significant development project that aims to manufacture high-value products from agro residues and woody biomass to replace the use of fossil and other environmentally taxing raw materials. The project received significant support from Business Finland for a €14.4m, two-year project.
During this project, Fortum and technology and refining partners will conduct research with the aim to create an industrial ecosystem in which biomass is refined in biovillages through collaboration between the companies. Demand for bio-based raw materials and other materials is growing rapidly in, such as, the textile industry. In addition to utilising woody biomass, the downstream processing opportunities for agro biomass, like straw, are also being explored.
Fortum’s Risto Sormunen, Head of the Bio2X Program, stated: “One of the priorities of Fortum’s strategy, updated in November, is to pursue growth in new areas where the company’s existing expertise and future technologies can be leveraged. Fortum already has significant competence with utilising biomass in district heating business and we are strongly committed also to development of the circular economy. We are living in a world with diminishing natural resources, and we aspire to be one of the forerunners in resource efficiency. For the world’s future, biomass is a valuable raw material that can be used to produce many more products of value than today.”
Project Manager Hanne Wikberg from Fortum, added: “We want to invest in the development of collaboration networks because it is only through collaboration that we can achieve a sufficiently quick transformation. This could mean a significant opportunity for Nordic bioeconomy's future. Finland does have a lot of expertise, as evidenced by the number of start-up companies in the sector. It is our job to bring together this expertise and enable production growth to a commercial scale.”
The project will be a part of Business Finland’s Bio and Circular Finland Program, which is aiming to make Finland the forerunner of the circular economy.
- The biomass utilised in refining includes woody and agro biomass unsuitable for human food consumption, i.e. straw.
- Biomass consists of three main components: cellulose, hemicellulose and lignin.
- Traditionally only cellulose is utilised in high-value products; but with the technologies used by Fortum, also hemicellulose and lignin can be refined to high-value products.
- Cellulose can be used to produce environmentally friendly textiles, for example; hemicellulose can be used as a raw material in products like foods and cosmetics, and lignin can be used in the production of adhesives.
- There is great potential globally for refining straw: currently a significant share of it ends up being combusted, i.e. it is not refined at all; at the same time, burning straw in fields causes significant air pollution.